Believe it or not, I actually like art. When I was small I illustrated a ‘book’ as a birthday gift for one of my sisters. When I was older I would stand in an art aisle at the craft store, very carefully read from art books that were for sale and then try ideas on my own. I dabbled in various art mediums and went through a phase of sketching little pictures in my quiet time notebooks.
Below is a picture of an oil painting I did once upon a time. It’s a favorite not just because it actually didn’t turn out too badly, but because of what it represents. It was of my sisters and I working together to create beautiful music, complete with gorgeous hair and pretty dresses. :)
But, while I liked art, I also had a little sister.
This sister loved art. I could do art for a little while, she could do art for hours. And, she happened to be good at it! She trained to develop the gift the Lord had given her – and succeeded. People have been brought to tears by her work. Below is just one of her oil paintings… :)
So when we were younger I heard my sister’s work praised, for good reason! I’m sure I had some nice comments on mine…but it wasn’t the same.
Now, there is nothing wrong with looking at our sisters and realizing they’re ahead of us in some way. That can be inspiring and challenge us to seek after more Christ-likeness or more skill in our own lives. And I’m not saying we don’t need to improve our skills when the Lord leads us to do so (I’ve been taught by both my sisters!) or just skip something for awhile because God has called us to something else (that’s happened to me too). There’s a place for both of those scenarios.
The actual problem is looking at our sisters in terms of what I call the ‘Comparison Game’ and telling ourselves we’re a failure because we can’t do what they can. (Or the other way around.) Even going so far as to give up trying. The big issue with this is that eventually we can end up bitter not just against our sibling or even those who we think don’t notice us, but against God for how He created us. That last is what happened to me. And it took me years to finally break through the cycle.
There are three key truths that I’ve found from practical experience help shut the Comparison Game down:
- Worth: Our worth as individuals is not in what we do. It’s in the fact that God created us in His image and Christ died for us. He loves us beyond words. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
- Service: We realize that every gift God has given us, no matter how big or small, is to be used to serve others. “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:10)
- Glorify: We do our work for His praise and glory not our own. We do it to please Him. Then whether anyone else praises us or not, it doesn’t matter, because we did it for Him in the first place. “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
When we choose to believe what God says in His Word – that we’re valuable to Him and that our gifts are from Him – and when we choose to use and cultivate those gifts to serve Him (regardless of whether anyone else notices), the Comparison Game looses. God wins and we enjoy a much more joyful life because our eyes are fixed on Jesus and we’re doing what He created us to do! Hurrah! (Assuming He has for us just to use those gifts just now. Sometimes He has us wait! :)
Back to the story…
I wrestled with this same issue with my other sister too. I loved music, but my sister loved it even more. And she was good at it! Her harp teacher basically told her her technique was perfect. An well-known, experienced piano teacher essentially told my sister she could be an really good teacher – which she is. :)
When our family would get together with others it was easy for my musical sister to be asked to play and people would applaud in one way or another. My artistic sister could display her artwork. Both of them served others with these things, but I felt like I had nothing.
It finally boiled down to the fact that I had a big choice to make. Was I going to put God’s Word into practice (three points above) or still wish God had made me like my sisters?
And at last, I chose the first. I asked the Lord to forgive me for my bitterness against Him and later went on to accept the way it seemed He’d created me, with lots of little gifts, not a big stellar one.
The Lord gave me the freedom to enjoy the ‘little abilities’ I had and the strength to choose to use skills I had to serve, regardless of whether I was as good at it as my sisters. To smile, even almost laugh, over many of my piano accompanying mistakes when playing for hymn singing (it was a relief!) and create place cards for a special event and love it, whether my calligraphy looked exactly like what my artist sister would have done or not.
Laughter? Joy? Yup! Truly, when we walk in the Truth, we find joy and freedom! (John 8:31-32)
There has been a bonus too!! My interests in the areas of art and music make it easier to get interested with my sisters in what interests them. And I can cheer them on with genuine joy (and not with that morbid failure feeling) because I know my identity is no longer in my performance compared to theirs. They are glorifying God with their abilities and serving others. And that’s glorious!!
Do I still wrestle with the Comparison Game? Sure. I’m still human! But I’m so grateful for the truths the Lord has taught me in this area and am delighted with the freedom He has brought and is bringing to my soul.
So be encouraged today. God created you uniquely and with special gifts for His purposes! Use them to bless and serve your siblings! And you can cheer them on in their gifts because the focus is God’s glory and the service of others!
Go for it, sister!